Rainy Days Activities for Toddlers at Home and Around San Francisco


IMG_9087Be honest. You’re a little disappointed it’s an El Niño year, aren’t you? Even though we really, really need the rain, being stuck inside with toddlers for more than one day takes the stamina and patience of an Ironman, an Ironmom , if you will. I’m certainly out of training. The drought brought beautiful weather year round, which meant I moved about the city freely with my kids, never bothering to check the weather.

My weather app is telling me our rain marathon is in full swing, so I searched online for rainy day activities in San Francisco. Lists exist, but many of the suggestions are better for kids who are 5+ years old. I need a game plan that works for a 2 ½ and 1 year old, so here are my ideas for entertaining young toddlers at home and around the city, while El Niño does its thing.


I am not crafty, so you won’t find adorable art projects on this list. These are my strategies for keeping peace and sanity in small spaces with small people. Spoiler alert: It’s all about introducing novelty.

1. Make a rainy day kit. Stash away toys, art supplies, games, whatever your kids might like and pull them out when you’re stuck inside.

2. Let them play with forbidden toys. In my house, this means Play-Doh! Let them play or do something they’re normally not allowed to do. By the end, you’ll be reminded why you forbid the stuff in the first place, but at least it killed some time.

3. Play in the bath. Let your kids paint or draw in the bathtub with surface-safe crayons like these. They’ll get a kick out of being in the bath mid-day, and you’ll confine the mess to one area, which, let’s face it, probably needs to be cleaned anyway.

4. Unlock an off limits area. Most of us live in pretty small spaces, but I bet there’s a place that your kids typically don’t play. Maybe it’s your bedroom, a closet, or the kitchen cabinets. Wherever it is, clear out some space, make sure it’s safe, and let them play. A change of scenery will do a world of good.

5. Call in reinforcements. It’s ok to wave the white flag and get someone to watch your kids, while you take a break. They will benefit from the new dynamic (even if they protest when you leave).

6. Let them watch lots of TV. I won’t tell, if you won’t.

OUT and ABOUT :IMG_9086
Let’s start with the free options

1. The SF Public Library – Go anytime to read some books and play with the toys in the children’s section of the branch near you. Check the schedule to join one of the many classes offered throughout the week.

2. Randall Museum – Currently in a temporary location at the Mission Art Center, but their live animal exhibit is there! Go on Tuesdays between 10:00am-12:00pm for the drop-in art class ($10 charge for this part).

3. Go to the mall – This is free as long as you have self discipline. Let them play in the lounge areas in the center of the mall. Buy some frozen yogurt for an extra treat.

4. Invite yourself to a friend’s house – She will be happy for the company, and you will be happy for the adult time. Return the favor on the next rainy day!

5. Play outside anyway – Our kids don’t get to experience snow days, so let them have rain days.

IMG_9085Pay to Play

Now, here are some “pay to play” spots that offer drop in classes or open play time with no membership requirements. (Although most give you discounts, if you are a member.)

6. California Academy of Science—The aquarium and rain forest are the highlights for toddlers. Free for kids under 4 years old.

7. Children’s Creativity Museum – Let your kids explore on their own or check the schedule for group time and workshops.

8. JCC—Offering a variety of drop-in classes with no need to sign up online in advance. Don’t forget to check the Family Swim schedule for open swim time in the children’s pool .

9. Peek-a-Boo Factory – This indoor play space has sections dedicated to babies, toddlers, and older kids, so children from 0-10 years old will find a place to play.

10. My Gym – Check the schedule for their Practice and Play sessions or the open gym time that doesn’t require membership.
There you have it: my game plan for toddler activities to do at home and around the city during this extra rainy season. Now, let’s make this a team effort. Please share your ideas in the comments section. I’d love to know what you have planned for the weeks ahead.

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Rebecca is the former Managing Editor for both Mid-Peninsula Moms Blog and San Francisco Moms Blog. She and her husband moved to San Francisco from the East Coast in 2008 and love raising their two children in the city. Rebecca worked for two Fortune 500 companies in a variety of HR roles before surprising everyone, including herself, and leaving her job to stay home with her kids. She's written for a variety of online parenting publications including Scary Mommy, Motherly, and YourTango, but promises that she can talk about non-parenting stuff in real life. Follow her on social media at @rlang165 and on BeckyRebecca.com.


  1. Love the idea of unlocking off-limit or new areas! The change of scenery would be great and kids have such wonderful imaginations this could lead to fun for hours! I also thought cooking could be fun, maybe have an easy/fast cupcake mix ready to go, and then decorate like it’s Christmas all over again! 😉

  2. I like letting them play with forbidden toys. Today, Connor was very entertained with the silverware drawer (sans knives of course). I have a few more spoons to wash but the time was worth it!

  3. I love the idea of the rainy day bag! ! I have a “keep them busy bag” for when we go out, but never thought to stock up on little toys for rainy days. The forbidden spot is a good idea too because they’re always dying to play in my big closet and I always say no.

    Can’t wait for the next post!

    • Yay! Glad there were a few helpful ideas. I was a little afraid people on the east coast would want to smack me for having to prepare for a little rain when you’ve got a blizzard!


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